SL moments: Paris v Sheffield, 1996

 

After nearly 12 months of political bickering and squabbling between the fans and the game’s administrators, Super League went ahead. 

In April 1995 Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB offered Maurice Lindsay £77 million in return for a 14-team competition in the summer months and for clubs to merge. The fan’s outcry was phenomenal in opposing the Super League

“Fev is Fev, Cas is Cas, stick your merger up your a…” was inscribed on a banner at a game between Featherstone and Castleford in protest to the club mergers.

Cheshire, Cumbria, Humberside, South Yorkshire, Manchester, Calder, Bradford, Halifax, Leeds, London, Paris, St Helens, Toulouse and Wigan were set to be inducted into a new highly marketed competition that would boost the financial accounts for all the clubs concerned. 

“Rugby League is selling its soul” was how the national media portrayed the new competition. Murdoch was already Fleet Street’s enemy number one. It didn’t support the new regime, however public interest was initially huge.

But the RFL were changing the game too fast and too soon for many, and soon a 12 team league was announced 22 days after the initial announcement worth £87 million to BSkyB.

Bradford, Castleford, Halifax, Leeds, London, Oldham, Paris, St Helens, Sheffield, Warrington, Wigan and Workington were all set to kick off the biggest season in the sport’s history since 1895.

Paris St Germain and Sheffield Eagles kicked off the new era at the Charlety Stadium in France. Frederic Banquet was the first player to score a Super League try for Paris, as the French side entertained the crowd and those watching on satellite TV with a 30-24 win over a Sheffield side that contained Keith Senior and Mark Ashton.

Banquet could have had a second try, but it was ruled out by the new and innovative Video Referee. The honour of being the first person to score a brance of tries in the same match went to Arnaud Cervello, while Darren Adams, Pierre Chamorin and Michal Piscunov added to Paris’ score.

Sheffield were always up against it, with huge expectation on the Frenchmen’s shoulders to compete. Compete they did, but Sheffield replied with scores from Carr, Matthew Crowther, Andy Hay, Dean Lawford and Senior. Ashton put his name on the score sheet with a simple goal.

Least we forget, rugby league in England was on its knees prior to Super League. Clubs were broke, skint, and on the verge of bankruptcy. The cash boost from Murdoch saved the sport, even if we were only brought on board so he could build up his empire and take over the game in Australia

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